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Gifts without price tags (12/25/2011)
By Janet Lewis Burns
“Peace on earth is declared new world order! Leaders representing all of mankind engage in largest group hug known to man!”

Though that seems far beyond what anyone can even begin to imagine, a renewed spirit seems to be arousing empathy in disastrous times.

Bringing to mind all of the horrific natural catastrophes, which have been rampant and more destructive throughout this past year, news reports always seem to include those stories of unselfish strangers lending helping hands and comforting the shaken victims. Those who have been through similar experiences seem to be more compassionate and outreaching.

A story abundant with generosity, that began several days ago, is spreading goodwill and cheer to countless families. The acts of charity began when a Michigan woman went to a Kmart store and anonymously paid layaway bills for people she didn’t even know, who had toys purchased, so she knew children would be recipients. Explaining that she was blessed with a good life, she was wanted to give something back.

The story has moved others to follow their own hearts. A Montana man paid more than $4,000 of layaway bills for strangers, because he had no family and it made him happy to play Santa. The spirit of giving is very much alive in today’s world!

On December 15, 2011, while most of us were sleeping, the nearly nine year war in Iraq was officially declared over! The American flag was lowered and removed from foreign ground. Tears of blood will forever stain the aging faces of the 65 million who served, along with the families of the 4,487 Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Reports of soldiers’ early returns home, to be reunited with loved ones, gives this Christmas an extra blessing of hope and joy. No store-bought toy could ever impart such sheer happiness on a child’s face as that reunion!

Our family’s Christmas dinner table seems to be smaller each year. We warmly remember those keepers of the ambience of bygone Holidays! Some would gloat, with a proud, self-sacrificing satisfaction, to tell of the hardships and simplistic pleasures that made the Holidays “way back when” more meaningful and appreciated.

Even though today’s conglomerates entice buyers with new and improved, mesmerizing, and trendy merchandise, something seems to be missing in this Christmas hustle and bustle of a new millennium. There’s scant time set aside to just “BE,” to savor the moments of family traditions and fond memories, so far removed from the unnerving expectations we place upon ourselves.

Where is the “mirth,” the spontaneous gaiety, that pink-cheeked innocence of mystery and wonder? The magic of youth’s enchantment conjures up an image of a child’s angelic face pressed against a department store window, his eyes wild with excitement at the sights and sounds of the sleek passenger train, rolling along, beneath tunnels and through cheery, miniature villages. Such extravagant desires weren’t expected to evolve into “dreams come true,” in those earlier years, when money was a respected commodity.

Most of the little girls got Betsy-Wetsy baby dolls (and they really did!). The prim and prissy fashion doll Lilli made her debut in 1955, when I was ten. Lilli became the first Barbie doll. Most of us preferred dolls you could cuddle!

We’ve forsaken rapture and humor, the ribbing and teasing, that lighthearted banter. A society who can’t seem to do anything in moderation, burdened by self-inflicted time and energy spent to impress somebody, doesn’t allot opportunities to ponder the magnitude of the humble birth of God’s son, the ultimate gift to mankind.

It’s not justifiable to place blame on the young people for asking for every mesmerizing and appealing electronic thief of quality time that hits the store shelves! Wanting stuff that everyone else has is human nature. Children aren’t born spoiled! Today’s parents aren’t any richer than families of past generations; they just spend money as though they are.

Throughout the years, as wisdom sets in, we come to realize that the priceless, most meaningful gifts our parents gave us were not adorned with shiny wrapping paper and satin ribbons, and found beneath the Christmas tree. For all posterity, give the gift of “YOU!” Never forsake the dream of peace on earth.



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